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Lower Weight Wrestler of the Year Spotlight: Grayson

When South Carroll's Grayson Barnhill stepped onto the mat for last month's Class 2A-1A state title match against Stephen Decatur junior Juan Hinojosa, the 106-pound sophomore did so with vengeance in his heart.

For it was nearly a year ago to the day at the same venue of Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro that Barnhill had finished as a Class 2A-1A state runner-up following a 5-3 loss to then-freshman Elijah Collick, Hinojosa’s Stephen Decatur teammate.

Adding fuel to the Cavalier wrestler's fire is what Barnhill witnessed prior to facing Hinojosa: Barnhill had to watch Collick, now a sophomore, win his second straight Class 2A-1A state title with a 13-5 major decision over Northern-Garrett junior Mathew Beitzel.

"The fact that Elijah Collick got to win his second straight state title right before me, and that I had to watch him do it? That just made it a lot worse for Juan Hinojosa because he wore the same singlet as Elijah," Barnhill said. "That meant Juan is on the same team as Elijah and that he had worked out all season with the same guy who beat me last year. So what that meant, honestly, is that I was gonna take out all of my frustrations on Juan."

Barnhill took only 59 seconds to finish Hinojosa for his 33rd pin of the year against one forfeit to complete his season with a record of 34-0. Along the way, Barnhill also earned his second straight Carroll County and Class 2A-1A South Region titles, improving his two-year career mark to 72-9 with 63 pins.

Barnhill has been named one of Legacy Wrestling's Lower Weight Wrestlers Of The Year.

"Juan had to take that butt-whupping in Elijah's place, and I was able to pin him with a cement mixer," said Barnhill, who went 38-9 with 30 pins last season. "After finishing second last year, I wasn't going to let anyone stand a chance on the mats with me. Being able to win states by pinning Juan in the finals was the perfect ending to my undefeated season."

Barnhill has been a demolition man over the past two years, particularly in the county, regional and state tournaments where he is 16-1 with 16 pins, 15 of which came in the first period.

“My goal this year was to just go out there and to get it over with,” said Barnhill, who is ranked second by Legacy Wrestling at 106 pounds. “I wanted to go undefeated by pinning everybody or as many people as possible.”

Barnhill’s domination has earned him the nickname, the “Sandman,” of pins on the wrestling mats, because no matter how much his opponents attempt to fight him off, it simply appears to be inevitable that their fate is determined and that a fall will happen.

A “Sandman” is a genie in folklore who makes children sleepy by sprinkling sand in their eyes. The saying is often referenced to personify sleep or the attempts at trying to fight off sleep, aka, “The Sandman.”

“A pin is really important to me. It shows the work and dedication that I’ve put in. I’ve only pinned kids in like four or five different ways this year," Barnhill said. "I’ll develop one move that I hit. Once I execute that move, it’s just not getting stopped by anybody.”

Like a mini-Mike Tyson delivering his one-punch knockout blow only at the lowest weight of Maryland high school wrestling, Barnhill assured that all of this year’s opponents have been ultimately, swiftly and firmly planted on their backs as the referee’s mat-slap signals the end.

“Grayson is a pinning machine and he’s a beast when he’s on,” said Cavaliers coach Bryan Hamper, a 2001 South Carroll graduate who was twice a state champion and twice placed fourth at the states. “I’ve never seen a young athlete as locked in as he was during the postseason. Grayson was on a mission to pin everyone, and he didn’t get out of the first-period at any of the county, regional or state tournaments.”

Over the course of the county, region and state tournaments a year ago, Barnhill was 7-1 with six of those pins being in the first period. In those events this year, Barnhill is 9-0 with nine first-period pins.

Among those falls, 11 happened in less than 29 seconds comprising one each in seven, eight and nine seconds. There are also two each in 12 and 15 seconds as well as one each in 14, 22, 23 and 28 seconds. Barnhill has also decked rivals in 39, 59 and 76 seconds as well as those in 1:46 and 4:39.

Barhill won counties last year with consecutive 12-second falls. A week later at the regions, Barnhill pinned Baltimore County champion Clayton Dicus (31-2) in 1:46 after having planted his semifinal opponent in seven seconds.

At states last year, Barnhill registered pins in 14 and 76 seconds as well as one in 4:39, with the last two victories being against the eventual third and fourth-place finishers. At this year’s county tournament, Barnhill pinned his opponents in 15 and 22 seconds. At regions, Barnhill had falls in nine, 23 and 28 seconds.

The nine-second fall was against Hereford’s fourth-place Baltimore County finishing freshman Connor Cline. The one in 28 seconds was against Sparrows Point freshman Wyatt Rossi. A Baltimore County champion who was fourth at states, Rossi’s record slipped to 33-3.

Barnhill used pins in 8, 15 and 39 seconds to reach his title bout against Hinojosa, who entered the match with a record of 39-3 after having pinned Rossi in 5:40 of their semifinal bout.

Barnhill is currently training for the April 5-7 National High School Coaches Association Tournament to be held in Virginia Beach.

"I haven't really been reflecting too much on what I did at states because I've really been focusing on my next competition, which is the NHSCAs," Barnhill said. "But my most rewarding pin had to be my state finals match against Juan Hinojosa. I wanted to come back and prove a point and I think that the work that I’ve put in outside of the wrestling room has really shown."

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